retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

The past is prologue to the future except when it isn’t. And when that happens it requires us to reorient our thinking to new realities, which, to be truthful, is especially challenging.

Well, here’s one big reason to feel challenged: today’s young adults are nothing like previous generations and that creates enormous challenges for customer facing industries whether you run stores or sell products.

Conventional wisdom was that today’s young adults - you know, those dreaded millennials - would grow up and just like their parents would get jobs and cars, start getting married and having kids and would, of course, start shopping just like everyone did before them.

Fat chance!

As the Washington Post

reported last week, millennials really are special, but not just because that’s what they heard from their parents. The reality is they are special because they are behaving so differently.

The article lays out important statistics tracking how millennials really are special. Consider just one of those statistics: half of older baby boomers married by age 22. Fast forward a few decades and only 7 percent of those born in 1996 were married by 2018—when they turned 22. (Kevin wrote yesterday about the changing patterns in car ownership, which ties perfectly to this demographic issue linked to technological changes.)

There are some underlying causes of this slow process starting with this: millennials, as a generation, owe a staggering $1.4 trillion in student load debt, which no doubt slows the process of any young person or couple trying to buy a home or have children. Plus, a huge portion of this generation came of age just as the economy imploded in 2008, which impacted their job prospects, financial situation and outlook in countless ways.

All of this, like it or not, matters to you beyond the reality that you need millennials are essential to your workforce and leadership teams today and into the future. As importantly, we need understand the unusual maturation pattern of this powerful generation and how they are adjusting to “adulating”, which includes how they shop, cook and eat.

The simple impact on the food retailing industry will likely be seen in smaller package sizes for smaller households and sustained emphasis on value pricing. It might also require some rethinking of store layouts to emphasize simplicity. (Some more reasons to worry about Aldi and Lidl there, don’t you think.)

No doubt the issues will go far deeper in many ways and the challenge to you and your company might be quite profound. In other words, these are demographic realities that you need discuss deeply and hopefully on teams that include millennial members who might help shine a light on the unique challenges posed by their own generation.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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